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Another part of my exploration of art and ecology curriculum would
focus around monuments and the environments in which they are placed.
For this approach to art and ecology I would want to examine how the
artist or culture has integrated ecological components into the into the
artwork, its location, and overall atmosphere. There is a long history
of mankind building monuments or memorials that have an integral
connection to their ecological area, and I would want to start off the
lesson with some slides highlighting this human theme. I would show my
middle school students the pyramids of Gaza, the Acropolis, the
American-Indian burial mounds in Ohio, Stonehenge, and Mount Rushmore.
The purpose of showing these slides is to provide context and a
foundation for the students to understand the multicultural act of
memorializing those who have died and building a structures to represent
an idea or theme. I would also want to highlight the variety of
materials, environments, designs, functions, and showcase the
general-diversity of monuments.
I would select a couple of slides to highlight for the "meat" of the
discussion. I would choose the Vietnam Memorial, Stonehenge, and the
Pyramids of Gaza. I would show each slide and provide a brief
description that would be limited to the historical era and culture in
which each work was produced, the materials and techniques employed, and
a limited analysis for the purpose of each monument. (For example: the
Vietnam Memorial was done to memorialize those who served in the Vietnam
war and lost their lives; we don't know exactly why Stonehenge was
built, however it may have had religious and astrological functions; the
Pyramids of Gaza were built as burial tombs for the Pharos of Egypt and
had definite religious significance.) I would then break up the class
into three groups and have them create an interpretation of each
monument to be presented to the class. I would want the groups to
provide a brief description of the site (what its made of, how it was
made, how long it took to make it, etc...) and an interpretation of why
the site is important to the culture for which it was produced.
Resources about the cultures, politics, religious beliefs, economic
systems, and historic periods for each monument would be provided to
each of the groups. The group would have to choose among themselves who
would be the secretary, the mediator (to keep the group on task), and
the presenters. Each member of the group would be expected to
contribute to research (during research times in class), and the group
representatives would have assigned duties expected of them. After the
groups have completed their work, the presenters for each group would
present the group's "report" for each monument, and those group members
who were not officially presenting would also be encouraged to
After the reports have been given for each monument I would want to
have a journal activity. I would write two columns of questions on the
board and ask students to answer one question from each column with in
at least five sentences. Questions I would ask include:
"What is a monument or a memorial? Why do humans build monuments and
memorials? Do monuments mean that a person was a good person? Is it
necessary for monuments or memorials to be large for them to be
important? What must a person do to be memorialized with a monument?
Can anybody be memorialized with a monument?"
Can monuments include parts that are alive (trees, plants, flowers)?
Did ancient people build monuments differently than we do now? If so
how? If not why not? How can monuments or memorials relate to their
surroundings? Give one example. Is it important for monuments to be
placed in public spaces and available for people to use? If a monument
is not taken care of and it falls into disrepair, will its meaning or
Students will be given several minutes to write their answers to the
journal question and afterwards the class will discuss and debate the
answers and ideas brought up. Students will be encouraged to contribute
their opinions and to back up their reasoning with logic or evidence
from the material previously covered.
The last activity for the class would be to create an imaginary monument
for a historical figure. I would ask the class for names of people who
have recently died in the last fifty years. (A possible list for this
point could include Tupac Shakor, John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, Martin
Luthor King, John F. Kennedy, Rosa Parks, etc...) After putting the
names on the board, the class would vote to pick an individual to
memorialize by creating an imaginary monument. The class would then
have to come up with suggestions for the monument and provide reasons
why they are making their choice. Where would it be built-- in the city
or the country? What would it look like? Would it be an environment
with trees, rocks, or other living landscape? What materials would be
used? How would you want the design to look? These are types of
questions that I would pose and ask them to provide answers and reasons
to back up their thinking. I would write these questions on the board
and have each student answer them in their journal in at least one
page. Afterwards, I would invite students to share their ideas and
discuss and debate different approaches and concerns.